I promised myself I would never watch another movie with Dane Cook in it again. I begged, pleaded and insisted that Hollywood not allow him to star in another movie after I reviewed his last monstrosity Good Luck Chuck. But just like my wife and kids, they don’t listen to me. He’s back in Dan in Real Life.
Dan in Real Life is basically a rehash of so many other romantic comedy/dramas (I’d mention a few of them but the early onset of Alzheimer’s is taking its toll) that litter the DVD aisles. However, this time instead of pretty and/or handsome 20-something year-olds miring in the self doubt, this movie stars 40-something year-olds wallowing in self pity. And trust me, from a 30-something year old perspective, watching older folks look for love while going through a personal catharsis is about as entertaining as watching wet paint dry.
That’s not to say, Peter Hedges doesn’t try to make the movie more than what it is. Steve Carell as Dan Burns, the middle-aged widower raising three daughters — Jane (Alison Pill), Cara (Brittany Robertson) and Lilly (Marlene Lawston) — is a great casting call. He’s got great comedic timing, he looks and acts unpretentious, and is a generally likable guy. A movie like this is definitely more his speed as opposed to that shit-bomb Evan Almighty that he starred in earlier this year. Juliette Binoche (whom I haven’t seen in sometime), is a pleasant addition as Marie, the love interest of both Dan and his brother Mitch (Dane Cook).
And suddenly we’re back onto Cook. Just the mere thought of him starring in a film sends shivers down my spine now. But all is not lost. Thankfully, at least this time, he isn’t the leading man. That means he’s only on screen 1/4 of the time! But even with this reduced screen time, he is still completely out of his element trying to act – everything he does is unnatural, rigid and morbidly annoying. He even tries to over power Carell with his sophomoric antics in the scenes they are in together; has this man no shame?
Anyways, I guess you can tell by now that I’m not overly impressed with Dan in Real Life. It certainly has it’s heart in the right place, but the execution isn’t nearly where it needs to have been. Perhaps not making Dan a complete lame-ass or maybe not relying so much on the children to act like the grownups (I hate movies that have kids giving the parenting advice) would have helped. And while I’m ranting, Steve Carell needs to find his niche and stick with it – he hasn’t been around long enough to start to break out of his element in search of new horizons (just ask Jim Carrey about those headaches).
So while the movie does have a few moments of laughter and personal reflection, there is hardly enough of them to make Dan in Real Life heartwarming or insightful. It’s a shame that the most memorable part in this movie is the ten minutes of air time given to Emily Blunt as the other girl with an interest in Dan. If this were indeed real life, he would have stuck with her (she is a smokin’ hot doctor) and dumped the old hippie chick at the bus stop.